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Category Archives: Crafts

A few years ago, we started buying wood furniture.

Vintage and second-hand, to be sure.

Rockefellers, we are not.

Buying at auctions and garage sales is good for the budget.  Plus, I like the hunt for old stuff, yes indeedy.  Usually, the more unloved, the better.

Rocking chairs with the rockers worn off?  Sign me up.

Cabinets, magazine racks, abandoned table at the side of the road?  I’m out of the car like a chubby magpie.

pink wardrobe and green magazine rack

Slowly, we have replaced any of the press-board, laminated stuff that we used to find at a certain lovely big box store.  (I still go there for the window shopping, tasty meatballs and $1 ice cream cone, of course.)

Forget grey hair:  the press-board-to-wood-conversion is a sure sign of advancing age.


The other part about buying used is that it lowers the guilt factor.

The guilt factor when I go about doing that thing that I always want to do.

You know–that thing that makes some people cringe or exclaim in horror.

(Insert Practical Man’s cringe and horror here.)

That would be painting.

Painting (say this in breathy, hushed tones):  Real Wood.

As in, our fireplace mantel (giant chunk of pine).

As in, our kitchen cupboards (giant room full of knotty pine).

As in, this china cabinet that used to belong to my Grandma Verna.

40s china cabinet - brown

It’s been “wood” coloured for as long as I can remember, including the last 20 years that it’s been in our house.  I think it hails from the 1940s or thereabouts.  Definitely vintage and lovely but, oh so browny-brown-brown.

Which is really only good if it’s made of chocolate, yes indeedy.

This fall, I could no longer let the china cabinet live in peace.

So, it went under the knife.

Rather, the brush, as the case may be.

Don’t be so dramatic, wood lovers!

All that wood was going away.  Even though some of it, on the underneath part, was cool vintage crate wood with retro advertising.

We kept that.

Bottom view of china cabinet - one half of the interior floor of the cabinet was made from an old crate

Practical Man did some considerable muttering under his breath.

It might have been because he always seems to end up finishing the painting that his paint-happy wife barely started.

Or, it may have been an apology chant to the wood–the wood which his callous wife had so gladly forsaken.

He and my dad are both woodworkers.  They make beautiful things which I have (cross my heart) never painted.

The struggle is real, my friends.

But, back to the china cabinet, which they Did. Not. Make.

Bye-bye brown!

40s cabinet with lattice-work door closed - painted cream

Hello, dreamiest cream and robin’s egg blue!

Oooh, how I love your new tra-la-la.

If you do too, check out more great ideas at Vintage Chic – A Room by Room Guide by Laura Preston.  I hope to feature her as a guest blogger here soon!

Cabinet painted cream outside with robins-egg blue interior on three interior shelves and walls

Now, the cabinet is just perfect to house fondue pots, vintage melamine and Pyrex galore.

None of it brown, as you might have guessed.

Today’s dilemma is this antique tea cart, with its original shade of woody-wood-wood.

antique tea cart with wheels - brown

Of course, I want to paint it.

Pinterest wants me to paint it.

What do you think?

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Family legend has it that I conned my Grandpa Lou when I was eight years old.

The scene of the crime was the grocery store near my grandparents cottage.  It was in a tiny little town and maybe the owners were Dutch or liked Dutch stuff or something because they had a little room near the back with a whole bunch of Dutch-inspired chatchkas in it:  Delft blue pottery replicas and such.

Of course, I was smitten.  I was a mostly-useless-but-pretty-stuff hoarder even way back then.  I mean, who doesn’t like a little chatchka shopping when they were only planning to buy two-year old cheddar and Mennonite summer sausage?

Naturally, after some browsing, I convinced my Grandpa Lou to buy me a decorative spoon “for my spoon collection.”  It had a Delft blue pottery-looking wooden (well, ceramic) shoe on the end and it came all the way from the Netherlands–well, China, actually, via Drayton, Ontario.

Such a treasure.  I loved it.

Don’t believe me?  38 years later, I still have that spoon.

So there.  Here’s the evidence:

delft ceramic "wooden" shoe

Please consider this when you’re judging my con artist ways.

Anyway, on the way back to the cottage all those years ago, my Grandpa Lou asked, “So, how many spoons does this make in your collection, now?”

He was apparently (hopefully?) quite amused when I replied, seemingly without guilt or guile:  “This is my first!”

And that, dear friends, is how I became a decorative spoon collector.  Relatives and friends would bring me specimens for the collection I didn’t really have, from their various worldly adventures which I stored and carted around through my 20s and various cross-country and out-of-country moves.

London Bridge, Royal Carriage, Wooden Shoe, Double Decker Bus, Crown - all former tops of decorative spoons

These former spoons are now destined for a new, upcycled life where they will be loved and made use of daily as: beautiful thing #2.

Yep, guilt over your con artist start in the spoon collecting industry will make you very loyal to your ill-begotten collection.  And, suddenly, you realize that you actually do HAVE a collection.


In recent years, they were stored in the drawer of the china cabinet (donated by Grandma Verna), since the china cabinet is where I put all the grown-up things that I don’t actually use:  “good” dishes, crystal salt and pepper shakers, pickle plates, and the china tea set from my childhood.

Out of sight, out of mind.  That is, in the dining room (definitely a room for grown-ups).

There was a brief period of spoons on the wall, but (con artist guilt aside), decorative spoons really aren’t my thing.  I’m more likely to have VW hubcaps and vintage printing press blocks festooning our house.

VW hubcap from Daizybug; upcycled mirror that used to be a tire

Daizybug’s hubcap; upcycled mirror made from a tire.

You know, things that kind of make Practical Man roll his eyes, but he still helps me festoon because he’s a very handy festooner.

printing block

antique printing block

Lately, though, I’ve been trying to purge items that I don’t truly love or make use of daily.

Have no fear.  Practical Man is safe on both counts.

The spoons, however–even after all my years of guilt-fueled loyalty–were on shaky ground.

After getting sucked into the vortex that is Pinterest for a few hours, (after all, who doesn’t like a little chatchka oogling and Fiat drooling when they were only planning to search for upcycyling ideas for decorative spoons?) I came across the idea to transform the decorative spoons into a charm bracelet.

spoon tops as charms next to a row of chain for the bracelet

These former spoons are now destined for a new, upcycled life where they will be loved and made use of daily as: bracelet #1.

Presto-bongo.  Practical Man to the rescue for the tedious (and slightly unsettling) spoon decapitation and hole drilling and jump-ring installation.

Then, I am back for the glory phase of attaching to the chain for the bracelet.

jewelery tray with the "charms" lined up next to chain and pliers


Memories of my and other people’s adventures in Miami Beach, Montreal, Detroit, Texas, New Orleans, St. Augustine, Rio de Janeiro, Quebec, Pheonix, Bahamas, Heidelberg, Ottawa, RCMP, Victoria, and England now tinkle and dance together, making a happy, loved, useful sound.

My spoons are re-born as kitschy, sentimental bracelets.  Two of them!

finished charm bracelet

My Grandpa Lou loved kitschy, sentimental stuff so I think he would approve.


Copyright Christine Fader, 2016.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet


We started out this year’s festive season—as you do—with a day-long marathon of vintage chair re-upholstering.  Yes, I had bought a lovely specimen (read:  sagging, dusty number with potential) online to act as the final flourish in a multi-coloured spectacle of seats collected from assorted corners around the house.

Dusty, vintage wooden chair with upholstery (falling off)

Some of you are aware that I have a slight um… chair acquisition problem.  I love ‘em.  Each one has its own little personality, its own unique flair.  They are like perfect snowflakes:  unique and special in all the world.

Why are you rolling your eyes?

However, this is not one of those times when I succumbed to the power that is a snowflake/chair vortex.  My excuse for this one is that I GENUINELY NEEDED IT to go with the newly-acquired kitchen table (handed down via my uncle, aunt and with a small detour via my cousin, but which actually used to be my grandparents where we ate Roast Beef and Leathers for decades – yes, that really is a thing – just stay with me.)  But, when the vintage, internet, snowflake chair arrived home, I remembered that old saying that “objects on the internet are smaller than they first appear” (except, of course, for certain American politician-wannabe’s hair and evil-ness) and realized that the chair was, well, to phrase it in holiday terms:

Slightly elf-sized.

chair stripped of all its upholstery and sanded

I am approximately 11 feet tall in my red-and-white-striped Santa socks, but, seeing as how it was soon to be the season of all things merry and I am also a soft touch when it comes to underdogs and sad, forgotten objects that look unloved and are sure to be the last item on the auction table that no one wants, I immediately fell in love with the chair’s elf-sized proportions and proceeded to pull it up to the table with the rest of its rag-tag companions.

Gingerbread crumbs!  It was, indeed, a vertically-challenged chair but, not wanting to hold that against it just because I happen to have knee caps that start higher than most, I opted to move another um… necessary chair to the kitchen (requiring re-painting and a seat cover re-do) and use the new, toy-making-sized specimen with my also vertically-close-to-gravity dressing table, instead.

The sound of giggling elves would have filled my head were it not for the seat springs of torture and upholstery of doom.  There followed muttering, upholstery tack pulling, fabric ripping, straw removal, more muttering, sanding, priming, painting and other blah, blah, blah that all goes under the un-desirable category in my mind called “prep”.

primed hair

I am not a fan.  Thus, I justifiably consoled myself with holiday libations in the form of truffle hot chocolate, so there!

However, all of this blah, blah, blah was in the name of getting ready for the main event, my favourite part:  the festooning, the fancifying, which was, in this case, the upholstering of the elvish chair into a thing of petite beauty.

chair painted pale green, no upholstery yet

It’s a small chair, I thought.  Positively elvish in proportions.  Even though the swoopy, curly bits of the back looked a wee bit tricky to me, I figured it would take a couple of hours, tops.


Practical Man spent a Sunday wielding a staple gun for approximately six hours straight, when he had intended to be spending a Sunday wELding (not wIELding) something fun on to his currently derelict but FREE fishing boat.  I therefore tried to appear innocent and unconnected to the Elvish Chair of Evil and do my penance by untangling the outdoor Christmas lights.

Which, were, of course NOT tangled because Practical Man had put them away and so, yes, they were labelled and wound in very orderly fashions on some kind of thing-a-ma-bobs that probably started life as something else like a bedroom slipper or a supersonic carrot peeler but have lately been wrestled into submission into something that you wind Christmas lights on to keep them labelled and orderly and not only that but they were secured further with twist ties so as to not escape the labelling and orderliness into which they had been placed.

So much for my penance.

I attempted to atone by flinging Christmas lights with festive flair into the bushes in front of our front porch, so if you happen to be driving by, it’s my fault they look like that.  I re-fueled with more truffle hot chocolate and some flirting with the upholsterer to keep his spirits dashing and dancing while he did battle with fabric, fluff and staples.

The elf chair is nearly finished, but for the part that involves me heating up the not-so-innocent-sounding glue gun (my first clue that I shouldn’t be using a tool with this label) and burning myself repeatedly while attempting to adhere some kind of ribbon-y stuff–whose technical name is bric-a-brac. rick-rack, Cadillac or something–to hide the 6 hours of stapling that Practical Man worked so hard to perfect.

finished chair with pink flowered upholstery

Anyhoo, it’s a magical chair and I think Santa will help with the final touches.

The Mensa puzzle calendar on the desk (not mine–I know you are shocked to learn) says Wednesday, October 15 and now, fresh from a day of Christmas shopping in nearly 13 degree weather in the middle of December in southern Ontario, I am slightly confused about what season it is.

But, the arrival of the first batch of fast-tracked Syrian refugees yesterday to Canada has reminded me:  it’s the time when we invite those we love and also, those less fortunate, to come a little closer.  A time for the elf chairs and all the others to celebrate together at our grandparents’ precious table.

Whatever the language or constructs of each of our faiths or beliefs, it’s the season of hope, of giving, of kindness and peace.

(And lots and lots of cookies, hurray!)

From our house and hearts, we wish you Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2016.


Last night at the Hallowe’en dance, I won the prize for Most Original Costume.


In other words:  the costume that looked homemade, had built-in lighting, and seemed as if it needed its own time zone.

Wearing a jellyfish body on your head covers lots of square footage, little did you know.  Also, drunk people sometimes think you’re dressed up as a lamp.

It made me realize what it must be like to be pregnant.

Or a bride with a giant dress.

First of all, there was the bride-with-a-giant-dress challenge of fitting a giant jellyfish head into a bathroom stall.

Jellyfish do a lot of giggling, when they pee.

Unfortunately, jellyfish don’t have bridesmaids to help out with logistics (although a very friendly dominatrix offered her help).

Then, there was the I-must-be-very-pregnant way people engaged with the costume.

That is to say, the jellyfish costume seemed to imply that strangers could get closer than is normally comfortable to me.  There were quite a number of people–pumpkins, the Sith, hippies, and tacky tourists–trying to join me under my massive jellyfish time zone, in a way that was slightly disconcerting.

Hands off the tentacles, people.

No jostling the jelly.

And, please put a few more clothes on, while you’re at it.  This is the jellyfish timezone, not stripper camp.

My jellyfish costume is kind of a (okay, grade 3) work of art as result of Practical Man and I spending more time than adults probably should on something like a jellyfish costume, but this is what happens when you have no kids and like to pretend you’re still 4, like I do, or you’re Practical Man and live with someone who likes to pretend they’re still 4, like his wife does.

Oh sure, I’m not really 4, but how can you not love Hallowe’en?

  • it’s got chocolate
  • it’s got dressing up in fun costumes
  • it’s got making stuff so you can dress up in a fun costume because buying a costume is just plain no fun at all (at least, for those of us who like to pretend we’re still 4)
  • it’s got twirling, if you play your cards right or plan ahead and have a floaty jellyfish costume that is perfect for twirling
  • it’s got prizes for best costumes (more chocolate!)
  • even if you don’t win, there’s chocolate.

Hallowe’en is just awesome.  Of course, I live in the country and no children ever come to our house, no matter how much we leave a trail of candy up the driveway or decorate the house (sniff!) but that doesn’t stop me from trying to buy goodies to hand out to the non-existent children or planning what I’ll wear.

Then, I  seek out every Hallow’s Eve dancing event I can possibly get myself invited to.  Often, it’s at the local village Legion which is fun because they always have a midnight buffet (with cake!) and everyone dances with everyone, which is like it was when I was a teenager in Germany so I get to simultaneously pretend I am 4 and 15 and what could be better than that?

The band is sometimes a bit painful but, really when it comes to dancing, as long as I can squint and recognize the tune, I’m in.  I’m almost positive that last one was Time Warp.  Or maybe, Werewolves of London.


When he picked me up this morning, Practical Man had a great idea for my next costume.

Noooo, I can’t tell you what it is!  This is top-secret, super classified stuff.

All I can tell you is that next Hallowe’en:

  • there will be chocolate
  • there will be dressing up in fun costumes
  • there will be making stuff so you can dress up in a fun costume because buying a costume is just plain no fun at all (at least, for those of us who like to pretend we’re still 4)
  • there will be twirling, if you play your cards right or plan ahead and have a costume that is perfect for twirling
  • there will be prizes for best costumes (more chocolate!)
  • and, even if you don’t win, there will be chocolate.

Hallowe’en is just awesome.

glowing in the dark

Copyright Christine Fader, 2015.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet




I am currently reading the book, Wonder and in it, there are a number of precepts.

Am I the only one who had to pause to remember what “precepts” meant?

I hope not, but, just in case I am not the sole grade-3-spelling-bee-champ-with-an-adult-onset-short-term-memory-deficit-for-proper-nouns, here’s a refresher:   precepts are mottos;  wise sayings;  noble rules by which to conduct one’s life.

It is important to have precepts.  Especially ones like this one:

“Never admit that using your e-reader is a clever way to find out the meaning of a word in a book designed for middle-school children.”


I have another precept:  Fake It ‘Til You Make It.

(Precepts get taken more seriously when they are written with a few capital letters).

My precept is not to imply that I advocate fibbing or mis-representation or passing off that 7 layer cake you got from the artisan bakery as your own work (although having had my own layer cake trauma, I could almost understand if you felt compelled to do that).

No, what I mean is, be your authentic, flawed and wonderful self and then go ahead and FAKE IT ‘TIL YOU MAKE IT.

(Okay, so all caps is just too obnoxious, even for a precept).

Yep, instead of wallowing in your insecurities and all the things you just can’t do (although goodness knows, that’s fun on a cloudy afternoon with a box of ice cream), pretend you know how.  Just for a little while, make the little voice in your head say, “Ha!  This will be a breeze!  I am great at knitting daisies/folding kirigami trees/building swings/crafting papier mache chandeliers/drawing purple elephants using my elbows” and then, as the megalo-maniac athletics company says:  JUST DO IT.

(See, their precept, while lovely, is just a tad obnoxious with the all caps thing).

But, get on with it and maybe, just maybe, you will find that you actually can, after all.

I Fake It ‘Til I Make It all the time.  In fact, I have recently convinced myself that I can play guitar, even though I only learned three-and-a-half chords around age 12.

blue, acoustic guitar

Practical Man gave me this blue guitar for Christmas. I love it!

And now, a few short weeks later, I sort of CAN play guitar.

I’m constantly Just Doing Things I can’t do.  Faking It ‘Til I Make…something.

Like fabu-lizing my father’s old guitar case from 1964.

Dad's black guitar case from 1965

I had already festooned it with a few stickers after he gave it to me recently but, even though I adore festooning, that wasn’t Just Doing It for me, so, I came up with the idea to jazz it up with some vintage fabric I had lying around (jazzing up is like festooning on steroids).

1 metre/yard of vintage, colourful fabric

Vintage fabric – approx. 1 metre/yard

Practical Man suggested that first, we fix it.

guitar case with assorted clamps attached for first aid

After all, this case is from 1964.

And by “we”, I mean “he”:

I don’t have a lot of patience for the clamping and gluing, the molding and re-laminating.  But not Practical Man.  He is a big fan of clamps.  With a handful of clamps, he is one happy clamper.


After all the first aid, I finally got to play with the fabric.

Well, actually, Practical Man suggested that it would be a good idea to iron the fabric, first.   The Faking It ‘Til I Make It project nearly ended right there because nobody told me that there was going to be ironing involved in this extravaganza.

Ironing was not part of my fabu-lizing plan.  It is the very definition of anti-fabu-lizing.

But, I took a deep breath and I Faked It Like I Was A Person Who Ironed.

iron on top of fabric

This was almost the end of my Faking It ‘Til I Make It. I don’t love ironing.

Then, it was back to the joy again as I got my nifty pinking shears (that’s just fun to say) and snip, snipped out the guitar shape from the very lovely, newly-ironed, vintage fabric:

guitar shape fabric cut out

I contemplated just varnishing this on to the floor because wouldn’t it be fun to have a flowery guitar inlaid into the floor?

Please ignore that whisper of fold near the top.  No amount of Faking It or steam could help me flatten that.  Also, I didn’t have quite enough full pieces of fabric so the bottom of the case is in two pieces, sewn together.  I Fake It While I Say Bad Words and Sew quite frequently so this was not too traumatic.

two fabric pieces, pinned together at the neck of the guitar

Luckily, straight line sewing on linen, non-wiggly fabric. Not too many bad words.

Because of the scarcity of this vintage fabric, we decided to fabu-lize the sides of the guitar in other ways:  using paint and tape.  I was eager to get on with the Faking It While I Painted It but Practical Man reminded me that we should tape the inside of the case so it wouldn’t get red paint all over it.

Very thorough taping/papering ensued.

I may have rolled my eyes and sighed loudly, a couple of times.

guitar case taped with newspaper

So important. So not fun.

Then, came the painting.  Practical Man doesn’t have to Fake It ‘Til He Makes It while painting so he took the reigns and the spray can and got down to business.  This being red, it took a few coats.

guitar case being painted


Then, there was waiting.

Between coats.

And after the final coat, for curing.

Waiting, waiting.

Finally, it was time for the fun fabric-izing!  We covered the lid of the guitar case with white glue, using cheap paint brushes.  Then, quickly, quickly, carefully, carefully, we laid down the fabric on top.  We smushed it all down so that it all made contact with the glue, then we quickly, quickly, before it could dry, painted a thick layer of glue on top and worked out any bubbles we found to seal the fabric in.

guitar case with glued fabric (whitened while drying)

We used white glue (dries clear). You could also use Mod-Podge (basically thinned, more expensive white glue)

Then, we had brandy to recover from the stress.

Just kidding.

It was chocolate milk in a fun glass.

More waiting while the magic happened:  the glue turned clear when it dried!

Once it was fully dry, we turned the case over and applied the second piece of fabric to the bottom.

More quickly, quickly.

More stress.

More brandy (not really).

More waiting.

I do a lot of Faking It ‘Til I Make Like I Enjoy Waiting.

One day or a hundred years later, it was time to tape!

rainbow coloured duct tape

Oooh, quite stressful as well.

Using an exacto-knife, the tape, and nerves of steel, Practical Man and I carefully applied the tape to the edges of the lid, making “relief” cuts using the exacto knife on the tape when needed, to go around the underside of the curves.

Not only does the tape look fun, but it also strengthened the 51 year-old rim.

the edge of the case, taped

we cut around the hinges and buckles.

YAY, I thought.

We’re done!

No, no, not so fast there, Speedy Gonzales.

Practical Man reminded me that spraying the whole thing to protect it, was a good plan.  I agreed but, honestly, that was before I realized that spraying meant scraping off all the excess, dried, clear glue that was on the edges (so that it wouldn’t crack and turn white every time we set the case down on the floor) and also:

Taping.  The.  Whole.  Case.  Again.

Guitar Case, nearly finished with tape and paper all over it again

I am Faking It While We Tape It


I wish I drank brandy.

guitar case propped open on table

But, it is starting to look beautiful, don’t you think?


So, there you have it.   Approximately two weeks later, presto-bongo, we have a sturdy, repaired, carefully fabu-lized work of guitar case art and I love it:

flowery fabric on top and bottom, rainbow duct tape edges, red sides on finished guitar case


But wait!

There are apparently only two tasks left:

  • rubbing 4-0 steel wool over the whole fabric surface to smooth off the fibres that have risen during gluing and then
  • applying a coat of wax

The demonstration sample Practical Man made me has shown me that these two steps will, indeed, result in a superior end product.  And, it’s also made me realize something:

Practical Man’s doesn’t live by the precept:  Fake It ‘Til You Make It.

He lives by the precept:

Do It Right Or Don’t Do It At All.

I  think we make a great team.


Copyright Christine Fader, 2015.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet





How many people can you fit inside a red, English phone box?

felt Union Jack

In addition to all things British, I also love felt. Here, I combine two of my geeky obsessions.

My friends (or mates, as they say across the pond) and I were always on a quest to find (suss) the answer.

I lived in England as a teenager, with my family.  On the weekend (at the weekend), my friends (mates), Ingrid, Matthew, Nigel, and sometimes Andrea, and I would go to nearby Milton Keynes to the movies (cinema).

Back to the Future (the first one) was showing, just to give you an idea of the vintage.  The movie and Michael J. Fox and his skateboard made me homesick for North America and Harvey’s hamburgers, of all things.

After the movie (film), there were some innocent teenage bonding experiences:  getting fries (chips), falling down giggling on street corners, and seeing how many of us could fit inside a phone booth (phone box).

All that time in phone boxes and we never phoned (rang) anyone, of course.  Where’s the fun in that?

Ever since, I have coveted one of these cast-iron beauties.  When they started to be de-commissioned in the late 80s in favour of soul-less Plexi-glass (Perspex) replacements, I tried to convince my dad (who was a fellow anglo-phile and somewhat amenable to some of my hair-brained ideas) to buy a bunch (whole load) and ship them over to Canada.  I have always been entrepreneurial with someone else’s bucks (quid).   I’ve been pitching sure-fire money (dosh)-making ideas ideas to invisible investors since the age of 17.

We would sell them, of course, to all the Canadians nostalgic for Queen and country (or those who recall fondly being squished sideways into one, in their youth).  There was huge profit to be made, I was sure of it.  Enough profit to guarantee that–hurrah–I could keep one for my very own.

I had big plans for mine.

It was for my industrial-style loft apartment in New York City.  Positioned right in the middle of my open-concept space, a red, English phone box was my perfect idea of a funky shower.  It was the the final, creative touch for the industrial-style loft apartment in New York City that I didn’t own.

Pfffh.  Minor detail.

Although, I think this is probably the same logic that resulted in Practical Man and I acquiring a cast-iron, claw-foot tub for the Victorian mansion I also don’t own.

Me in my pink clawfoot tub

I had to use the tub for something…cue the pink book promotions.

Anyway,  the English phone box has now achieved protected (listed) designation.   Yep, that means they’re somewhat rare and valuable and highly desirable.  If we’d snapped some up back in 1990, my father and I could have been red, English phone box business tycoons (Sir Richard Branson/Jamie Oliver) by now.


Fast forward 25 years.  I have convinced Practical Man to help me fulfill my red, English phone box dream.  He is so very obliging and far more likely to complete the project when the nasty measuring parts (bits) inevitably reared their ugly head.

We started with our boring (bog-standard) bathroom (loo) door:

Plain door

An unsuspecting door, just waiting to be transformed.

Practical Man then painted it approximately 127 times with red paint because after 63 coats of red paint, red paint still looks like salmon or puce and not at all like red paint:

Red door

We scrutinized photos (piccies) of real English phone boxes (because, I wasn’t actually a telephone box baroness in possession of many or even one real one – drat!) and found an approximation of the TELEPHONE font.  Practical Man transferred the font to the door using carbon paper.

He didn’t curse–even in British–the way I absolutely would have.  I just don’t understand him, sometimes.

I painted the word TELEPHONE (using squinty eyes and three task lights and a lot of deep breathing to avoid shaky hand syndrome and possibly a little bit of British-inspired cursing):

Telephone script

The door frame was then painted, daringly, without the use of drop cloths or a shred of painter’s tape.

Practical Man is kind of a painting show-off at times.

Then, lots of measuring (guess who did that?) and discussion about “hump” size and shape.  Use of compasses–and trigonometry and possibly some parabolas (I abandoned those back in grade 12) and definitely bristol board–ensued to achieve a reasonable facsimile of the domed top–y’know, in 2-D version.

door frame

Finally, the door went back on its hinges (still no cursing) and the “crowning” touch was applied, using a fastidiously-cut, homemade stencil (guess who is fastidious in this house?), a sea sponge and some antique gold paint:

Crown on telephone box

It’s as beautiful (brilliant) as the Royal Mail, the Royal Seal on the Peek Freans cookie bag or…oh yes, an actual red telephone box!  I came (arrived) home from work and clapped my hands in glee.   I have always wanted a crown and now I have one.

We waited one week to cure the red paint.  Someone annoyed someone else fairly regularly with choruses of, ‘Is it ready yet?  Is it ready yet?’ until finally, the magical day arrived:  time to apply the windows.  I helped with the paint shopping.  We (that would be “he”) used the skillfully-chosen metallic gunmetal acrylic paint and lots of painter’s masking tape.  

More measuring, ad nauseum.


We elected to represent a vintage phone box, using the 3×6 window design of the K2 model (1926-), with some artistic liberties taken.  

Tra-la-la!  The finished product:

Complete phone box

I hope you are clapping your hands in glee with me.  I feel our little masterpiece (mah-sterpiece) is worthy, don’t you?

I don’t live in a Soho loft and it’s not cast iron, but I love (adore) it.  This is a project that’s been 25 years in the works and it makes me homesick for Britain and curry rolls from the Cranfield Fish and Chip shop, of all things.

So, how many grown adults can you fit inside a red, English phone box?  My old friends (mates) aren’t around to help me test it out.  Ingrid lives in Wales, Matthew lives in Texas, Nigel lives in England, and Andrea lives in Germany.

But, somehow, they feel closer than ever.

Copyright Christine Fader, 2014.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet         You might also like my latest book.

I am a documented scaredy cat, but I still love Hallowe’en.


Me, circa 1974 after pulling icky, gicky, sticky stuff out of the pumpkin.

Not the vampires, blood and gore Hallowe’en that some prefer.

Rather, the pretending, dressing up, revert-to-childhood version that lets me carry on like I did when I was 11, when I spent weeks designing, building and painting my mailbox costume (complete with chute for candy).

Or, the year before, when I was a die:

dice costume

Me, wearing one of my many 0-degree celcius costumes

In Canada, all Hallowe’en costumes have to fit over a snowsuit.

None of those wispy fairy/princess/superhero costumes for us, no sireee.   The foolish (or newly immigrated from warm climates) among us might try for that kind of nonsense but they just end up shivering their way around the neighbourhood with frost coming out of their nostrils and goosebumps the size of the Rockies all over their fairy wings/tiaras/capes.

We are a hardy Hallowe’en bunch, us Canadians.

As an adult, each Hallowe’en season is just a big excuse for a whole lotta dancing.  I am Dancing Queen.  I am Boogie Nights.  I am Disco Fever.

Or, you know, something from this century.

Hallowe’en is an excuse to dream up a costume that lets me play for a few weeks in advance of the big event, plotting and planning, building and dreaming, all with a goal of creating something fun, flowy, and breezy to wear as I groove the night away with some serious tra-la-la.

Yes, I am 44.  No need to point that out.

I probably should have been a kindergarten teacher.  Lots of tra-la-la opportunities there.  Tra-la-la is practically a job requirement.

Not to mention, twirling.  Love the twirling.  Five year-olds don’t look at you strangely when you do it, either.  They just join in, like we should have been twirling all along.

I love that about them.

Due to my bookish nature, I have often gravitated for past Hallowe’ens to children’s literary characters including:

me aka Raggedy Ann

me aka Raggedy Ann

Raggedy Ann:  white skirt, top, apron, fun socks, wig, doilie.  Presto-bongo:  homemade costume!


I’m off to see the wizard…and Practical Man who has kindly changed out that ugly floor.

Dorothy:  white skirt, blouse, apron, pigtails, ruby slippers.  Presto-bongo:  homemade costume!

Pippi Longstocking

Hair was very fun with coat hangers in it but slightly dangerous to other dancers

Pippi:  white skirt, white top, pinafore, red wig, pigtail with coathangers, fun shoes.  Presto-bongo:  homemade costume!

You may be noticing a theme here.

Even though my costumes no longer have to fit over a snowsuit, I’ve never been a woman who does that whole sexy nurse/fairy/butterfly/witch/pirate wench thing that many women do.    I don’t feel any such inclinations to harness my inner hottie, but rather, my inner 4-year-old.   With a side dish of twirling and dancing with gleeful abandon.

Then, there’s the chocolate, of course.  Yummy.

This year, I got slightly more ambitious in the costume department.

There was architecture involved.

First, I got a top hat.

Practical Man generously donated several pounds of bubble wrap he had stored away for practical occasions such as this.

start of jellyfish costume

We recycled the corrugated presentation board from a Career Jeopardy game we had made for my work back in 1999, and cut it out in the shape of a doughnut.

But this isn’t a doughnut costume (although I’m sure if I could have managed to convert a white skirt and an apron into a doughnut, I would have tried).

I built up the presentation-board-formerly-known-as-Career-Jeopardy-game with tons and tons of the bubble wrap and packing tape.  I stuck a lot of packing tape to my other fingers, the floor and my hair along the way.  I may have cut my finger slightly with the scissors.

next step of jellyfish

It’s beginning to look a lot like Hallowe’en!

All is fair in Hallowe’en costume creation.

I cut clear plastic garbage bags into strips and strips and strips (mostly wiggly, because I hate measuring and plus, it’s more realistic, and have you already forgotten that I hate measuring?)

I cut ribbons and iridescent tulle.


Oooooh groovy!

Practical Man cut long strips from an old pool solar cover (he measured, of course.  His strips are very straight.)  He also strung some foam balls on fishing line (also measured precisely for varying lengths and distances).

bottom view

Here’s the bottom view, in case you need more detail

Then, work began on the accessorizing.

First, the finger and toenails became party blue:

blue fingernails

No, those blue fingers aren’t because I have zombie low blood pressure, thanks for asking

We still have 80 feet of solar blanket left from the pool, so I fashioned a little clutch.

It’s important that my costume have a place to put my lipstick.

clutch purse

I think I can make 347 more of these out of the remainder of the solar cover

Ta da!   I think it’s practically like Dolce and Gabbana, don’t you think?

Then, I donned a white long-sleeved t-shirt, white skirt (we’re back to my usual antics) and an iridescent blue skirt that was in my Tickle Trunk.  I pulled it up to my chest so it covered more of my body.

It looked swishy and sparkly.  Perfect for twirling, if I do say so myself.

My friend Pippi (not her real name) thought I was…

An octopus.

I have forgiven her because by the time she was beholding my magnificence, she had already consumed half a bottle of white wine so it was hard for her to remember the correct word for my epic costume:


Here I am!

JELLYFISH, of course!

Rockin’ the jelly.

I’m a fresh water, Lake Ontario jellyfish.   Hee hee.

Glow sticks from the local dollar store added just before dance time made it glowwwwwww.

glowing in the dark

glug, glug, glug

Next time, I’ll use more, but still….



I love Hallowe’en.

My sister emailed from Tuscany this week and told us that her hotel room had only skylights in the ceiling, but no windows.

Poor, poor thing.

Not that I’m jealous of her trips to the Italian markets or the daily gelato she’s eating (it’s a cultural experience) or the million Fiats surrounding her that she’s probably not even noticed.

Two fiats

Why am I complaining? It’s practically like Tuscany in our garage.

Nope, not jealous.    After all, working with university students is kind of like Tuscany, without the markets or gelato or million Fiats.


Anyway, it got me thinking, what with my poor sister’s hotel room being what she affectionately calls “the dungeon”.  There is no sympathy because that dungeon is–let’s review–in Tuscany, but I did get to thinking about windows.

No gelato (boo hoo) in these parts, but boy-oh-boy, do I have windows.

Yay, me!

Tuscany should pine for these windows:

Tall ones, paned ones, broken ones, curvey ones.

All vintage.  All drafty, single paned and in need of regular painting, no doubt.  Some with wobbly, bubbly glass that would have been good and rattly in a storm (or when you stomped down the stairs in a huff because you weren’t in Tuscany).

All forsaken for new, shiny, vinyl things.   Bleech.

Some were abandoned, heartlessly at the side of the road, where, yippee, we picked them up.  Yippee!

By “we”, I mean, Practical Man leaped out of the car while I clapped my hands in glee.  Yippee!  He is what you call the “strong, silent type”.  Being the strong, silent type is perfect when you are asked to rescue another one of your wife’s collectibles, without the need to sigh or contribute snide remarks.

Apparently a little rolling of the eyes is permitted, however.

He may have been rolling his eyes, but he barely batted his incredibly long eyelashes recently when I bought two (more) vintage windows that we found, for a steal, at a sale.

old window with wallpaper on it

No, that is not lovely stained glass. It is dusty wallpaper. Bye, bye wallpaper!

Windows that my unfortunate, deprived sister doesn’t have in Tuscany, no siree.

I have big, big plans for these.  Yep, I do.  Uh huh.

Sometimes, I also buy doors (and then hang them sideways on the wall, because why wouldn’t you?)

Dutch door, hanging on wall

I’ve always wanted a dutch door. I think this used to be one.

Other times, I create a scene using bristol board, my giant box of craft paper and UHU glue (so I can regress to age 15 and pretend I am still in Germany eating Black Forest Cake for late afternoon snack.)   Plus, UHU is so fun to say, especially if you say it the German way:  OOOHOO!

Now you know:  OOOHOO!

Then, I call it art and hang it up, boldly, as if I am an artiste.

This piece (real art is always called a “piece” isn’t it?) is called “Waiting for Ferdinand”.  I was inspired by The Story of Ferdinand, the little bull who loved to smell the flowers.

curvy windows with art

See? Curvy windows make great art.

I like to pretend I am a Spanish sinorita with a flower in my hair.

Ferdinand, Ferdinand, wherefore art thou, Ferdinand?

He doesn’t respond, except to say, “UHU!”

scrabble lettering:  Waiting for Ferdinand

I think Ferdinand seems like a Scrabble kind of a bull.

This next one doesn’t have a name.  It’s from a time before I called things like this “pieces” and pretended to be an “artiste”.

I look at it while I’m trying to play Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven or the Apple commercial piano jingle.  It makes me feel as if I’m playing wonderful music by the seaside from my  home in a lighthouse.

Yes, my home in a lighthouse where I fly my hot air balloon to the mainland to get warm, fresh-from-the-oven baps and buy rhinestone sunglasses, once a week.  Tra, la, la.

Maritime scene, paper and antique window

This lovely window doesn’t stare, disapproving, at me like the Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, portraits I used to have above the piano.

Sometimes, I just put windows on the fireplace and then add a bunch of empty antique frames and favourite, vintage books.


Windows to nowhere, frames with no one. Love it.

These make me smile but they make my friend Bamboo Guy’s wife, very, very puzzled.  She doesn’t understand why every fireplace needs a copy of Peter Rabbit.

Sometimes, I’m not sure we can be friends.

Here is the view from our living room window these days:   autumn in southern Canada.

That’s the pool shed:  doesn’t it look quaint?  It has great, old-fashioned windows.

sugar maples, benches, shed

All our sugar maples are starting to snooze…

Now, I just need some gelato and I’m all set.

Copyright Christine Fader, 2013.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet         You might also like my latest book.

More window ideas:

I spend a lot of time crying while I’m crafting.

Daisy eyeglass case made of felt

(Behold, one of my crafty eyeglass case endeavours. It made me cry.)

Yep, the boo hoo and crafting are an inseparable pair for me.  Partly, it’s that things rarely seem to turn out looking as incredible as I saw them in my head, but mostly, it’s the fault of the felt.  I love felt, but it does not, alas, love me.

Quite the opposite, actually.  But, I don’t care.   I am stubborn and prone to holding on to things and people even when all the signs are saying, “let go, for pity’s sake, LET GO!”   That stuff is like catnip to me…and probably makes me just as itchy.

Anyway, I just love felt.  It does not really love me.  This is the kernel of my inspirational crafting story.

Boler trailer out of felt

This is a replica I created of a friend’s vintage Boler trailer. I cried the whole time I made this.

Maybe I love felt because I’m not a very patient sort and felt is so forgiving.  There’s no basting or pesky finishing of edges.   You can cut shapes out of paper, pin them on and just cut the felt.  Presto, it feels like you’re halfway to a finished product.   Hurrah!

I am meant for projects that the average grade 2 student can finish in under a day.

Maybe I love felt because it seems like an inexpensive risk for me.  At 0.49 cents/square (even less if it’s on sale), it’s a perfect low-level investment for a rushed and not always terribly skilled crafter to make.  And, I don’t drink coffee so for the price of one of those frappa-lappa-chinos that people buy, I can mess up two or three times without feeling terribly wasteful.

Although, I do miss out on the whipped cream, which is quite unfair.

MG E-reader cover

The e-reader cover I made for my dad. He has an MG sportscar and his initials are MB. I thought it was clever…even while I cried.

Maybe it’s because it evokes such a handmade, vintage feel, no matter what you create with it.  So, to my friend who pointed out the hand stitching on my Valentine’s Day heart pin with some disdain…that would be the handmade, vintage feel that I was going for.


Ditto for the St. Patty’s Day shamrock and Remembrance Day poppy.


A heart to show my love for Practical Man. Of course, it made me weep.

Maybe I love felt because I hope that someday, felt will love me as much as I love it in return.  And, maybe someday, I won’t have to knock myself out with allergy meds for us to get along.

Because frankly, felt is a little rough on me.  I think it’s a dysfunctional relationship, if I’m honest.  There’s a lot of blowing my nose and wiping my eyes and I always convince myself that things will go better next time.


“Owlivia” felt pillow/doll. A 40-Kleenex project.

That’s why, occasionally, things are a little lop-sided.  Not because I am not inclined to measure.

And I get itchy.  Which can throw off the stitching.  And the allergy meds make me sleepy.  Which means I often have to finish things in a hurry.  But, this is the nature of my unrequited love affair with felt.

Isn’t it grand?

My most ambitious project to-date was the superhero mobile I made twice for two recent babies.  Here are the little pillows that hung from the strings.  They were double-sided masterpieces, if I do say so myself.


Green lantern



Wonder Woman
I hear the babies cried and cried when they saw their mobiles.

I know the feeling.

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